It is an election year. Which way is the wind blowing? Judging by the rift over the Democratic Party Platform, testing, accountability, and charter school management could see significant changes….or not.
The draft platform opposed for-profit charter schools. The amended platform added even many more changes:
- Opt out parents would not be penalized.
- The use of high stakes test scores for school grades and teacher evaluations would be eliminated.
- Public schools would be ‘democratically governed schools’ not those governed by appointed private boards.
According to accounts by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post, the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) views these changes as a rejection of President Obama’s school reform policies. The AFT, however, supports the changes. In an article written by Jeff Bryant, AFT President Weingarten is quoted as saying the platform is a ‘refreshing sea change in its approach to public education”.
At last the movement to privatize our public schools is being challenged. The amended Democratic Party platform passed. Charters would not be eliminated by the party platform provisions, but their operation must meet new criteria. Charters would be governed by locally elected boards, required to reveal information about finances and governance, and would not destabilizes or damages the public school system by duplicating existing programs.
There needs to be a way to run public schools in the public interest in a cost effective manner. It cannot be a cookie cutter approach. There are legitimate needs for alternative ways to meet student needs. Alternative strategies, however, must not be irresponsible. We are up to the challenge. Our elected officials need to hear from us.